On the eastern corner of the Balkan Peninsula lies the captivating country of Bulgaria. One of the oldest European civilizations, there are over 40,000 monuments that hold testament to its rich history. Bulgaria has also made great strides to protect its biodiversity so you can enjoy miles of its unspoiled flora and fauna.
Whether traveling with family or friends or embarking on a solo adventure, you will be greeted by smiling faces wherever you go. In this guide, we will look at the best places to visit in Bulgaria so you can become acquainted with the intriguing facets of this incredible country’s heritage and its warm people.
Tip: For more travel ideas, take a look at our list of European tour destinations.
Best Places in Bulgaria | 5 Interesting Attractions
A crossroads of civilizations, Bulgaria tells a fascinating story of rich heritage and modern vibrance. Venturing into the more developed cities of Bulgaria, ancient monuments mingle with 21st-century construction in the most natural way.
Bulgaria is a dream destination for the intrepid traveler. You could dedicate an entire trip to view its collection of natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And that’s just the beginning.
We have yet to introduce the enticing cuisine on offer. From fresh, crunchy Mediterranean-style salads to hearty Greek lamb shanks, there is no shortage of traditional dishes inspired by Turkish, Greek, and Persian cultures, making Bulgaria one of the best European food destinations.
We have created this guide to Bulgaria’s best places and activities to help you tailor an authentic Bulgarian adventure, one that will remain the subject of your travel tales for years to come.
Sofia | Best for Bulgarian Culture
An excellent place to start your journey in Bulgaria – Sofia has a light and airy atmosphere. With its beautiful parks and friendly locals enjoying a more leisurely pace, the capital city is a pleasure to explore. The architecture and monuments represent times of triumph and siege over thousands of years of Sofian history.
Sofia isn’t only about ancient history, though. Bulgarians are visionary people, exemplified in the assortment of art galleries, theater, ballet, and opera houses. This is where you can see Bulgarian culture come alive in unforgettable performances and artwork.
Top Activities to Do in Sofia
Are you looking for a quick way to get around Sofia? Rent an e-scooter, a fun, eco-friendly form of transport that will save you tons of time exploring more of the city and its surroundings.
On the capital’s outskirts by the base of the Vitosha Mountain, one of the best day trips from Sofia awaits. The Boyana Church protects narratives from the Byzantine era. The church’s interior is adorned with intricately executed frescoes of celestial scenes in a bold color palette that you could gaze at for hours.
Rila Mountain | Best for Exploring Bulgaria’s Natural Wonders
A hike through the Rila Mountains is captivating, the granite cliffs a dramatic backdrop to its coniferous forest canopies. Flora and fauna thrive within their protected ecosystems. In winter, snow-covered peaks become a skiing haven.
Rila Monastery of Saint John of Rila at the foot of the mountain preserves the heart of the Bulgarian spirit within its stone walls. The residential monks facilitate visitors to stay overnight at the monastery and experience its tranquility.
Top Activities to Do at Rila Mountain
On an overnight stay at the Rila Monastery, you can dine on traditional Bulgarian favorites at the Restaurant Rila Monastery Neven before retiring to your quarters for the night.
During winter, carve through the Rila Mountains at one of its six ski resorts, followed by a hot drink in front of a roaring fireplace.
If you are touring Bulgaria after the snow has melted, why not hike to the Seven Rila Lakes? From the final lake, called The Tear, you will be rewarded with an ethereal view of all seven turquoise lakes and the vistas that surround them.
Plovdiv | Best for History Lovers
This ancient town has traces of traditions from over 7,000 years of Roman, Ottoman, Byzantine, and Bulgarian civilizations. In true Bulgarian style, historic monuments are preserved, some restored to honor Bulgaria’s heritage.
Modern additions to the town, such as the Singing Fountains in Tsar Simeon Garden Park, pay homage to the Thracians who established their settlements strategically around the mineral springs as early as the 1300s to benefit from the curative and revitalizing waters.
Top Activities to Do in Plovdiv
The Theater of Philipopol in Plovdiv is a preserved ancient Roman theater and the only ancient theater in Bulgaria. You can observe construction safety features that allude to the performances of the time, likely battles between gladiators and dangerous animals.
Ancient municipal district members once gathered for the Thracian provincial assembly, their titles inscribed in the stone of the arena’s seating. The acoustics still serve diligently today, with concerts and events held year-round.
Veliko Tarnovo | Best for Viewing Folk Traditions
Meaning Great Thorny City in Old Bulgarian, the former royal capital of Veliko Tarnovo, is quite a sight perched atop Mount Tsarevets overlooking the Yantra River. The restored Tsarevets Castle, with its ruins of monasteries, palaces, and traditional Bulgarian homes built during the expansion of the Second Bulgarian Empire, provides an intriguing snapshot of the Bulgarian medieval era.
Veliko Tarnovo’s “new town,” located on the hillsides around the castle, bustles with activity and a modern Bulgarian lifestyle. Enjoy the youthful vibrance that emanates from a thriving student population, fuelling a lively nightlife culture.
Top Activities to Do in Veliko Tarnovo
The new town is full of vim and vigor. The spectacle of the “Sound and Light” show is a delightful activity in the summer evenings. Beams of multicolored lights bounce off the walls of Tsarevets Castle to a synchronized melody of bells, and crowds gather each night to view the colorful performance. This is an activity you can repeat and experience something new each time.
Veliko Tarnovo still maintains a charm about it. Also known as the “city of artists,” folk traditions are kept alive by artisans practicing traditional craftsmanship in workshops along the cobbled Rakovski Street. You can better understand Bulgarian culture by identifying the regional origin of each skillfully-made piece of art or craft.
If you get peckish, pop into one of the inviting bakeries for a traditional Bulgarian “banitsa,” a phyllo pastry pie with a savory or sweet filling.
Nessebar | Best for Fun in the Sun
The seaside town’s position primed Nessebar to play a pivotal role in trade between multiple nations in antiquity. With its sunny coastline, Nessebar is a popular destination throughout Europe for its aquatic park with a vast array of themed waterslides and other water sports.
Strolling through the traditional Old Town, narrow, cobbled streets lead past 19th-century Bulgarian revival wooden houses. The Archaeological Museum displays a fascinating collection of artifacts from centuries of civilization. You can see coins used in the first monetary trading, originating from the Thracian age.
Top Activities to Do in Nessebar
Aqua Paradise Water Amusement Park looks like a medieval castle and makes an exciting day trip destination. The aptly named “Kamikaze” is reported to be an incredibly thrilling experience, with a slew of others following in its wake. After all the excitement, have a lazy dip in the Spa Pool, enjoy an underwater massage, a soak in the jacuzzi, and a relaxing water massage shower.
Keeping within the aquatic theme, you can take a boat tour to view the Bulgarian coast in all its glory, tasting salt in the air while you soak in the sun on the deck. After a lesson about the area’s carefully protected ecology, take a refreshing dive into the Black Sea and gaze at all the ocean life in action.
FAQs About the Best Places to Visit in Bulgaria
The Balkan countries are still relatively unnoticed by mainstream tourism, so you may have questions while planning your first visit to Bulgaria. Here, we will address some common queries about what to expect before you embark on your journey.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Bulgaria?
The best season for your visit to Bulgaria depends on the activities you would like to do. For skiing, December through March are the best months. June to September are perfect if you would like to catch some sun on the Black Sea coastline. For campers, the more temperate months of late Spring, Autumn, and early Summer are suitable.
What’s the Best Way to Get Around in Bulgaria?
The most readily available and reliable transport is the local bus system. You can take a tram in some major cities, but they fill up quickly during the busier summer months. There is also a railway to travel between towns and neighboring countries.
Is Bulgaria Safe to Travel Alone?
The country has a high safety index and is reported to have less crime than more frequently visited European destinations. Bulgarian people are some of the most inviting locals you will meet, so you are sure to make some friends along your solo travels.
Final Thought on Traveling to Bulgaria
Bulgarians are proud of their heritage and have preserved various archaeological sites, unique biodiversity, and an authentic way of life. Traveling around the country is accessible with public bus routes between major cities and the Black Sea coast, and friendly locals welcome you at every place you visit.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Why not check out the best things to do in Dubrovnik?